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Former Argentinian Leader Denies Covering Up Iranian Involvement In Bombing

Former Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

Former Argentinian president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has denied in court that she covered up for Iranians accused of involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in which 85 people were killed.

The charges are "legal nonsense," Fernandez said after leaving court on October 26. She accused President Mauricio Macri, the center-right leader who succeeded her in office, of "judicial persecution" of the opposition.

Fernandez, who was president from 2007 to 2015, gave a written statement to judge Claudio Bonadio, who is investigating the alleged cover-up by her and 14 aides of the involvement of Iranian officials in Argentina's worst terrorist attack.

Fernandez, 64, is accused of staging the cover-up by signing a 2013 pact with Iran that would have allowed senior Iranian officials accused in the deadly attack to be investigated in their own country, rather than in Argentina.

Federal prosecutor Gerardo Pollicita said the "criminal plan" was to "grant impunity" to Iranians who had international arrest warrants out on them. The agreement was ruled unconstitutional and never went into effect.

Fernandez said in court that the memorandum "had one aim: to allow an investigation into the Iranians accused in the attack, so that the case could move forward."

She has said that because Iran and Argentina have no extradition agreement, there was no other way to proceed with the investigation.

Fernandez made a political comeback in the October 22 elections, winning a seat in the Senate, which protects her from arrest unless the Senate lifts her immunity.

Fernandez has also been indicted on corruption charges, but dismisses them as politically motivated. While her membership in the Senate does not allow her to be arrested, it does not prevent judicial proceedings against her from going ahead.

The bombing of the Argentinian Jewish Mutual Association in Buenos Aires followed a 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires which left 29 people dead.

The 1994 attack, which killed 85 people and injured hundreds, remains unresolved.

A special prosecutor investigating the case, Alberto Nisman, was found dead with a gunshot to the head in 2015, days after he leveled the charges against Fernandez.

While Nisman's case was reopened by prosecutors earlier this year, progress in moving it through the courts has been slow, in part because of Iran's refusal to cooperate, officials said.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and dpa